Even if this cruciferous vegetable hasn’t won your heart, you’ve surely heard about kale, the nutritional superstar. If you look up the topic of healthy eating, clean eating, vegetarianism, or green smoothies (just to name a few), you’ll find talk of kale. But what is kale all about? Is it as good as healthy food enthusiasts claim it is?
Curly kale may have a sturdy texture and bitter taste, but its impressive nutritional profile makes up for any shortcomings. And if you watch your weight, you have nothing to fear: you can enjoy all the benefits of kale without running the risk of gaining extra pounds. One serving of this superfood—a cup of raw leaves or half a cup of cooked leaves—comes with a roster of vitamins and minerals, all at a cost of only 35 calories. If you’ve already jumped on the clean eating bandwagon, spinach and collard greens probably have a special place in your fridge. The good news is that you can further diversify your diet with kale. Different it taste and texture, it will add a completely different twist to your tried-and-true recipes. (If your bladder controls you, it’s time to take your life back.)
Struggling with recurrent UTIs? Believe it or not, kale can help. In fact, it is listed as one of the best dietary treatments for UTIs, also thanks to the nutrients it contains that boost bladder health and support healthy urinary tract lining.
Like its fellow superfood comrades, kale also has a high antioxidant content. Why is this important? Antioxidants are known to neutralize those nasty free radicals, which are unstable molecules that circulate in your body and cause cellular damage. Free radicals are notorious for their contribution to serious health conditions, such as macular degeneration, cardiovascular disease, asthma, immune disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. There are just a handful of foods that are as potent as kale in terms of its antioxidant powers—for instance, arugula, garlic, red cabbage, sweet potatoes, and beet greens are all good alternatives. (A breakthrough secret to make your joints feel younger.)
Plus, free radicals actively participate in the process of aging. Stocking up on antioxidants not only protects your health, but also helps preserve your youthful appearance by preventing the decline of skin elasticity associated with ultraviolet radiation.
If there was just one reason to eat kale, its antioxidant benefits would be it. But don’t get too obsessed with maximizing your antioxidant intake: moderation and diversity work much better than a single-sided approach to eating. Studies have shown that eating lots of vegetables and fruits decreases your risk of serious health problems, so it makes sense to just amp up your consumption of fresh produce in general.
Kale is definitely worth exploring and experimenting with in your kitchen. It is a popular ingredient in smoothies because your blender does the hard work for you: if you’ve ever chewed on a kale salad, you know that it takes extra effort to munch through it.
One last thing: while it is very tempting to believe that kale can solve all your health problems, the truth is, it won’t, but a healthy lifestyle coupled with a well-balanced nutrient-rich diet will. As Krista Leck Merner, a registered dietician, put it, “lifestyle trumps superfood.”